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Reject This Game of Thrones
If you’ve tuned in to TV news anytime over the past six days, you’ve been inundated with coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Indeed, the mostly fawning treatment of the Queen’s passing, her role in history, her record long reign, her succession, the celebrity and death of her firstborn son’s former wife, her other son’s sexual scandals, her grandsons and their personal drama and the sycophantic weeping of her “subjects” in the media has been something of a personal irritant to me.
Yes, I certainly understand the media’s desire to cover every moment of this situation. After all, the media is all about ratings, because ratings equal revenue, and news is a business, and the royals make for big ratings. And as a radical for capitalism, I endorse that.
However, as a man who abhors the notion of monarchy and its roots in such despicable ideas as the “divine right of kings,” I find the pageantry rather loathsome. In fact, I am someone who has a visceral sense of nuisance whenever I see a picture of the royals, and the reason why is because I’m opposed to concepts such as one human having political province over others simply by accident of birth.
Now, I know I am viewing this issue through a decidedly American lens, but I was taught from my earliest reading of government that “all men are created equal.” Yet in monarchies of any kind, even the timid version such as that of Britain, the sovereigns are thought to be created better than their subjects, and therefore they have the right to tell other humans what to do, how to live and who to serve.
Stated in starker terms, in most historical “absolute” monarchies, subjects don’t own their lives, the king or queen does — and that makes people slaves of the state.
Of course, Britain is not an absolute monarchy any longer. The country has long been a “constitutional monarchy,” which is a system of government in which a monarch shares power with a constitutionally organized government — and this is indeed progress.
Yet in the case of Britain, King Charles III now is not only the titular and ceremonial head of state, but he’s also head of the Church of England and the head of the armed forces. Talk about being born with a silver spoon in your mouth.
Now, some writers/intellectuals that I admire, in particular Andrew Sullivan, have written eloquently about Queen Elizabeth II and the virtues she embodied. Here he writes, “With her death, it’s hard not to fear that so much she exemplified — restraint, duty, grace, reticence, persistence — are disappearing from the world.” Fair enough, as I am all for virtues such as grace, reticence and persistence.
But then a few paragraphs later, Sullivan goes on to defend the Crown by enlisting the help of writer C.S. Lewis, who once said: “Where men are forbidden to honor a king, they honor millionaires, athletes, or film stars instead; even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”
Think about this for a moment. In Lewis’s view, we should honor a king, who ascended to his lot simply by virtue of birth, but we shouldn’t honor millionaires, athletes or film stars — people who have actually put the hard work into it and have done what is required to achieve their status in life?
This is my biggest issue with the notions of royalty of any sort. To be honored and endowed with position, privilege, wealth, admiration, power and respect by accident of your birth, and not because of the hard work it took you to become a millionaire or a standout athlete or a film star, is a perversion of reality that needs to be called out now — especially while the world is mired in an orgy of royal worship.
Yes, as Lewis says, spiritual nature, like bodily nature needs to be served. But I say that bestowing virtues on a person because of their birth, and not because of their actions, is gobbling up the worst kind of servile poison — poison that inevitably leads to subjugation of the ugliest sort. And if you don’t believe me, read up on the violent atrocities of empires throughout history.
At the root, you’ll find the structural servility of men under the authority of monarchs — and to toward that poison, I say reject this game of thrones.
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ETF Talk: Drilling for a ‘Clean Power’ ETF
The energy market is facing what is popularly called a “Catch-22.”
While the worldwide desire to shift to cleaner sources of energy to preserve the standard of life that humanity has grown accustomed to has put pressure on the desire to shift away from hydrocarbons and to hydro, wind and solar power, the problem is that those green sources of energy still do not have the capacity to generate and store enough energy to fully meet the world’s needs.
Thus, natural gas is viewed by many observers as a bridge source of energy between oil and coal, whose combustion greatly damages the environment. The desire to shift to cleaner energy also has taken center stage in the conflict regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to dissuade foreign support for the Ukrainians by throttling its natural gas shipments to the rest of the continent and the free world is trying to wean itself off Russian oil, whose purchase is helping to fuel his invasion.
Thus, all the evidence suggests that cleaner energy, in whatever form it takes, will remain an important source of energy for many years to come.
Of course, there are exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that will do well as a result of this shift to cleaner energy. One such fund is the SPDR S&P Kensho Clean Power ETF (NYSEARCA: CNRG).
This ETF’s portfolio is composed of two sub-indexes. One follows the technology that is used in renewable energy, and the other follows companies that offer goods and services that are related to renewable energy. To find these stocks, the portfolio’s managers pore through company documents and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings to find the key terms that signal inclusion in the index. Then, companies that meet the cut are sorted into “core” and “non-core” baskets, depending on whether clean energy is the central focus of the company.
The top holdings in the portfolio are First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR), Plug Power Inc. (NASDAQ: PLUG), Array Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: ARRY), Enphase Energy, Inc. (NASDAQ: ENPH), SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ: SPWR), Shoals Technologies Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: SHLS) and Bloom Energy Corporation Class A (NYSE: BE).
As of Sept. 14, CNRG has been down 5.66% over the past month and up 26.02% for the past three months. It is currently up 9.52% year to date.
Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com
The fund has amassed $365.28 million in assets under management and has an expense ratio of 0.45%.
In short, while CNRG does provide investors with access to green energy, this kind of ETF may not be appropriate for all portfolios. Thus, interested investors always should conduct their due diligence and decide whether the fund is suitable for their investing goals.
As always, I am happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You just may see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.
In case you missed it…
The Cat and the Horror
There was a cat sleeping on my porch
She didn’t know what I had witnessed
The lacerated skyline of metropolis
A bleeding out of her twin sons
Flying lancets piercing steel hulls
Black smoke seasoning the azure sky
As the falling man descends to the concrete
Incendiary ideas born in Bronze
To please a prophet on a white horse
Hatred of the good for being the good
Crumbles a once-proud icon
Falling ash blankets District streets
A macabre concoction of concrete, bone, blood
Fury rises in the giant’s heart
Rage and revenge burn white
Country targeted, let there be fight
Two decades later, let there be flight
There is a cat sleeping on my porch
While the world remembers
— Jim Woods, September 7, 2022
On Sunday, we marked the 21st anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
And yet the passing of more than two decades hasn’t been enough to fade our scars. And for me, those scars will never be allowed to fade.
Etched on my personal black box recorder are the memories I had circa 1999, when I checked in at the World Trade Center lobby to report to work for my first day at Morgan Stanley. The firm’s training program for new advisers/traders took place in those Twin Towers, and in the weeks that followed, I spent many an afternoon high atop the Manhattan skyline, learning the business inside the iconic monument erected to celebrate capitalism, Western achievement and the wealth of nations.
Their boldness, their glaring simplicity, their twin-brother like stance and their defiance of the rest of the New York City skyline was all part of the reason the World Trade Center was targeted for destruction by forces whose primary directive is death to the infidel.
On that day, when the blue skies were pierced by the stiletto insertion of commercial jets into the towers, I watched the events unravel from some 2,500 miles west. A condo nestled at the foot of the Hollywood Hills hardly seemed congruent to the billowing smoke oozing out of the structural siblings.
The only connection in my mind was… my mind.
A mind having been there just a couple of years earlier, wondering what it would be like to actually be there in that moment.
Wondering if I would have been incinerated along with the roughly 2,600 other souls that were extinguished that day.
Wondering if I would have acted heroically, the way so many did.
Wondering if I would have succumbed to the cowardice that so often accompanies paralytic fear.
I would like to think I could have been a hero. I need to think I would have been a hero.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out.
Instead, from afar, from the safety of Hollywood, I watched. All day, all night, I watched. Compelled by the horror; compelled by the enormity. Thinking to myself, “Will this be the world from here on?”
Would the world be plunged into war? At that moment, I wanted war. I wanted vengeance. I wanted to pound those responsible, and the philosophy that animated these acts, into a pulp.
I still want to.
I want to stoke the burn of that day. I want to remember the collapse of icons.
I want to keep calling out the life-hating, celebratory death cult of ideas that is radical Islam, and I want to rejoice in its defeat.
The scars of history must never be allowed to heal, and no salve of time should be permitted to mask the day America would be altered forever.
Note: For the full immersion experience, I invite you to listen to a special audio essay of “The Cat and the Horror.”
Of Cameras and Monarchs
“The invention of the camera enabled the reinvention of the British monarchy for the modern era.”
The British historian points out yet another thing that I dislike about that nation’s monarchy, and that is the tabloidesque nature of the royal family and the media that covers them. Perhaps it’s just the ugly American in me, but I can think of no greater inane fetish than an obsession with queens and kings and princes and princesses.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.
In the name of the best within us,